Once in a blue moon in every industry there's a breakthrough that simply can't be denied; for example, the air-cushioned running shoes in athletics or the antilock braking system for cars. In the area of abdominal training the breakthrough that's taking the bodybuilding industry by storm is the rounded-back Ab Bench. The reason for this is simple: The Ab Bench trains the abs through a full range of motion'from a prestretch to a complete contraction'safely, effectively and with progressive resistance.
All bias aside (after all, we do both work for IRONMAN, the company that first presented this piece of equipment to the bodybuilding public) we can both say, without any reservations, that there isn't another piece of ab-training equipment on the market that even comes close to the Ab Bench.
The New Improved Ab Bench
After the Ab Bench was released, we began getting feedback' We reviewed all of the data and went back to the drawing board and made the following improvements to an already great machine:
Why the Ab Bench Works
While there are numerous ways to train, whether it be with Positions of Flexion, Periodization or some other system, certain facts are indisputable. The human body has functions that simply don't change with time. Until we introduced the Ab Bench, no one had ever written about the abdominals' full range of motion. Think about it. When you arch your lower back, the rectus abdominis elongates, which is the prestretch part of the muscle's range. Unfortunately, because floors are flat, people have been working their abdominals through only half the range of motion nature intended.
Every muscle has what's known as a complete range of motion. That's why POF suggests the often-neglected stretch-position movements for each bodypart, and it's the reason periodization thoroughly analyzes what exercises work which areas'so trainees can get complete development at the fastest rate possible. Even in these two scientific protocols, however, full-range ab training was somewhat elusive until recently.
Despite all the experts spouting off over the years about abdominal training, not one of them ever talked about the abs working through a full range of motion. All those fancy ab machines manufactured by the big equipment companies have flat backs and a single pivot point. Sorry, the Model-T looks great, too, but it's outdated.
Those flat-backed ab machines are outdated because of the way the human body works. Did you ever notice how the spine looks like a series of small cylinders stacked on top of each other? They appear to be hinged together when your spine curls forward. The Ab Bench takes this physiology into account, since the cable design allows for the pivot point to move down the spine as the abdominal muscles contract. That contraction takes place all the way into the pelvis, where the complete contraction of the abdominals actually rotates the spine. That forces the rectus abdominis to contract from top to bottom, from upper abs to lower abs. Once you understand the biomechanics of the movement, the superiority of the Ab Bench is obvious.
The benefits don't stop with the rectus abdominis on the front of the torso, however. Remember that the midsection includes more than that one muscle. There are actually numerous muscles that rotate and move the area, and you can accomplish all of these actions on the Ab Bench, getting full development of the often neglected muscles. You can even turn around and work your lower back, which some people forget is the other half of the midsection.
Informal and Formal Studies
When Fred first brought the Ab Bench on the exercise scene a few years ago, Steve decided to put it through his own personal test in the IRONMAN Training and Research Center. In conjunction with two sets of one other ab exercise he did two sets on the Ab Bench twice a week and gradually reduced his calorie intake. Within six weeks his abs came into focus as never before. Training his abs from full stretch to complete contraction made a tremendous difference in speed of results.
To verify these results, we asked William A. Sands, Ph.D., to conduct a study at the University of Utah. EMG tests confirmed that the Ab Bench was at the top of the list for abdominal muscle-fiber activation. Case closed.
While we knew it worked, we asked Robert K. Blom, our resident registered physical therapist, to explain the interrelationship between the muscles. He described how the prestretch results in a fuller contraction as well as which muscles fired during this full-range exercise, including the internal and external obliques and transverse abdominis. Everything he said backed the Ab Bench's effectiveness, and so does the research, which is why we're continually singing the Ab Bench's praises in IRONMAN.
While other magazines give you run-of-the-mill ab routines month after month, with half-range crunches and stiff-leg leg lifts'programs that are about as efficient as running in combat boots'IRONMAN gives you midsection-training innovation with the Ab Bench, including prestretch and full range of motion.
Of course, we've had to endure the criticism that comes with the innovation territory. Whenever someone discovers something new, the detractors line up like so many hungry wolves, their fangs dripping with cynicism. Yet the physiological concepts that make the Ab Bench so productive have stood the test. Nevertheless, there have been relevant suggestions. What we decided to do was take all the feedback we received and revamp the design to make it even better. The result is the new Ab Bench [see 'The New Improved Ab Bench,' above]. Once you start using it, you'll see why it's the Rolls-Royce of abdominal machines. IM